Augustin passed the goblet to Alex and watched with anticipation. Alex accepted it with a smile, hoping none of the men gathered around the oaken table could see his fear. As for himself, he could smell it strong and ripe, the effect similar to racing five miles on pure adrenaline. His heart beat as if he had.
It was heavier than he anticipated, the dull gleam it gave off belying its nature; his hands sank then rose as he adjusted and held the goblet before him as he’d seen the others do. Alex marveled that he once thought it to be made of anything but solid iron. The surface was intricately engraved with tall grass and trees, their roots reaching down to strange beasts gathered around the base, swaying counterclockwise around the exterior. The moon and sun occupied the same sky.
His heart clamored in his chest. Across the table, Benjamin Peliseus frowned, and Alex was struck with the notion that the man could actually hear the rapid thump-baddump echoing through his chest – perhaps better than Alex could hear it. He took a deep breath.
The first mouthful cloyed him, coating his mouth and throat with as it went down. The pungent smell rose to his nostrils, catching him by the throat. Alex gagged into the cup but held the drink down, eyes watering. He prayed it would be enough to satisfy them.
His head swam when he lowered the cup. The men watched him expectantly, six faces with hawkish eyes that seemed at odds with their youthful features. Alex felt the wrongness of the men, the eons of blackness hidden behind a mask of young skin like a shadow on the surface. A word came to mind – monsters – but it seemed impossible. Intoxication must have exaggerated his unease.
“How do you feel?” The voice sounded distant, stretched across miles of telephone wire. Alex looked around the oppressively oaken table for its source but found nothing but tight lips and hungry eyes between him and the door.
“It’s strong,” he managed with a cough. His limbs were too heavy now to run. “I’m afraid I’m not holding my liquor well.”
“It is better at second draught,” Augustin assured him, his face bestial behind a paper thin smile.
Somehow, Alex doubted that.
… taken from an excerpt of my short story, “Ouroborus.”